Thursday, December 4, 2008

Jewels and other things that dazzle. . .

This Thanksgiving was unusually lovely for me, I hope that it was likewise for you. If somehow it wasn't, may I recommend a lovely tart to cure whatever leftover stings and bruises you may have? If somehow it was, you should try the tart anyway, because as Mae West famously said, too much of a good thing can be wonderful.

Here's something heart wrenching; I made this tart for someone else to take to their dinner. I presented some simple and sweet Pumpkin Pies at the dinner that I attended, but I selflessly gave this little beauty to my mother to bestow on her hosts (who were different from my own.)

Well, not entirely selflessly. I demanded at least a slice in return. Of course not until the dinner was over so that the dessert could be presented grandly, that is to say in its entirety.

In the end, I was glad to wait until late that night to taste the fruits of my labor. It was the perfect bite to round out a surprisingly peaceful day, something I'd been looking forward to for nearly 48 hours at that point.

Alright, enough suspense. Lifted straight out of the 2008 Thanksgiving issue of Gourmet, the Prune Cherry and Apricot Frangipane tart is one that initially I passed over. Somehow it called to me on a second, time-killing browse through the issue. Thank goodness for the boredom that drives us to reread and issue already cast aside, because without it I doubt such perfection would have passed my lips this year.

The ingredients are stupidly simple, and the tart more than the sum of its parts. Little mesmerizing jewels, the cherries, prunes and apricots soak overnight in Grappa and a little sugar, plumping and becoming wholly seductive.

Something about making a tart in one of those pans with the removable bottoms inspires me to make my own crust, but I'm sure that you could buy one and stuff it into the pan and few would be the wiser. Use whatever recipe is your favorite if you decide to make your own, I made an all-butter crust and it was, shockingly enough, dreamy.

Whip up a pillowy Frangipane filling while the tart shell pre-bakes. Pressing the glittering, tipsy with Grappa fruits into the frangipane is pretty much one of the most enticing things I've done in my baking career, so you may want to allow a lot of time for it. Or you could be done in under 2 minutes. Your call.

Sip the remaining Grappa as the tart bakes, this is a must.

May it bring you comfort and joy. It certainly did me.

Prune, Cherry and Apricot Frangipane Tart

(From Gourmet, Nov. 2008)

2/3 cup Grappa (I used Clear Creek Fresh Oregon Muscat Grappa)
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup prunes
1/2 cup dried tart cherries
1/4 cup dried apricots

7 oz almond paste
1/2 stick of softened butter
3 tablespoons sugar
1/8 tsp almond extract
1/2 + tsp salt
2 eggs
3 tablespoons flour

Chop up the prunes and apricots. Or use all cherries and skip the chopping.
Heat the Grappa and sugar in a pan over med-low heat until sugar is dissolved. Add the fruit and simmer gently for 1 minute. Remove from heat and let it sit overnight. Stir now and then.

The next day, get your tart shell pressed into a round tart pan with a removable bottom. Prick it all over with a fork and bake the tart shell at 375 for about 15 minutes. Let it cool and work on the filling.

Beat the butter and almond paste together with the sugar, extract and salt. Add the eggs one at a time, and don't worry if it looks a little separated. Finally beat in the flour.

Pour the cloud-like mixture into the cool tart shells and press the strained jewels into it gently. Save the Grappa syrup that comes from straining.

Bake for 30 minutes at 375. It is done when puffed and just golden. Brush the hot tart with the Grappa Syrup. Impress your friends with your mad skills.

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